Best-in-Class Businesses Lead in B2B Process Innovation

As the new year gets underway, many businesses will be taking the step of increasing their capacity for effective B2B data exchange with other companies, boosting online visibility and implementing new and better processes for enhancing their business and customer relationships, in-house efficiency and analytics.

What process enhancements are most effective? In a pair of studies, the Aberdeen Group compared the state of B2B uptake in global industry across a period of almost three years. In the first, 191 supply chain executives surveyed revealed that only 14% of their businesses have achieved online trading collaboration with their partners, and only 12% had achieved online visibility into supply chain issues and disruption. In the second survey, the Aberdeen Group found that these numbers had more than doubled in just a few years.

This rapid increase in B2B process and technology proliferation has seen the emergence of clear excellence in implementation and partnership development. Aberdeen’s analysis of the best performers included a summary of innovations and practices common to the most successful B2B companies.

1. Sharing collaborative networks with customers. Building trading community networks with key customers results in more successful order management, inventory management and forecasting.

2. Sharing collaborative networks with suppliers. Networking directly with suppliers results in more effective procurement and in-bound logistics.

3. Breaking down trading partner base according to electronic ordering. A major drain on efficiency is offline processing of orders and invoices. Parsing trading partners by their ability to swap orders and invoices electronically enables focusing on those partnerships, and provides a platform for getting stragglers on board.

4. Improving supplier accountability. Two-thirds of Best-in-Class B2B companies have the ability to measure the performance of suppliers over time, resulting in higher visibility with respect to production capacity and delivery, as well as increased control over lead times, fill rates and reduced inventory.

5. Including non-critical participants in trading networks. Proactive on-boarding of less sophisticated customers and suppliers pays off in the end, resulting in less time spent on offline processing.

6. Outsourcing B2B trading management. For many companies, a smart strategy has been to hand off the management of B2B trading community networking to a third-party provider, freeing up in-house resources to focus on innovation.



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ENTSOG B2B Messaging Sets an Industry Standard in 2015

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG), the continent’s cooperative for unifying its energy market’s transmission system, advanced its B2B messaging protocol beyond the proof-of-concept stage in 2015. An agreement is now in place between ENTSOG and the European Association for the Streamlining of Energy Exchange (EASEE) to cooperate in the development of data exchange messaging as ENTSOG’s initiatives make their way into the energy marketplace.

Three years in the making, the agreement specifies protocols for both document exchange and integrated data exchange, implementing communications standards that will be adopted by hundreds of partners in Europe. Partners in the energy delivery chain include traders, gas shippers, distribution system operators and transmission system operators.

Several protocols and standards will guide the evolution of ENTSOG messaging, moving forward. One protocol, AS4, has been tested and is in the early stages of universal implementation. AS4 provides B2B partners with simplified mapping while enhancing message security.

EASEE has contributed its EDIG@S messaging standard, an industry exchange format that has been in common use for several decades.

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Consumer Trends That Will Drive B2B in 2016

While the world of B2B has its own unique imperatives, it’s the nature of B2B to respond to consumer concerns. Some consumer trends are likely to have an impact on B2B in the coming year. RainCastle’s Paul Regensburg recently listed several.

“Buyer Persona.” Target consumer audiences tend to be amorphous from a B2B perspective, yet groups within those audiences tend to have distinct motivations and priorities. From a B2B perspective, each group ‘persona’ can be defined, clarifying differences in the needs between groups. This perspective is useful in refining B2B customer relations, and will soon become standard.

“Explainer Case Studies.” Social psychologists have long emphasized the importance of narrative in any collaboration between large groups. The case study is an example of narrative that can be used to clarify relationships, but case studies tend to be written and often dry. Video presentation of case studies, with animated graphics, make it easier to convey narratives that enhance intergroup communication, which is a win for all players in a B2B chain. Now that the technology is ubiquitous, look for this to become a trend.

Improvements in web presence. Regensburg cites several trends in web presence that will spread in B2B Internet communication. A strong emphasis on interactivity will emerge, focusing on content and messaging. More personal imagery, featuring real photography rather than stock images, will likewise become a standard, and unwanted pop-up notices will become less common on B2B-oriented websites.

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More B2B Tech Trends to Look For in 2016

As the new year approaches, a number of technology trends that have been building for several years are reaching critical mass. As B2B grows beyond its traditional boundaries, integrating partner data exchange, on-the-ground logistics and the nuts and bolts of paying for things, it is poised to embrace many of these trends more fully.

Mobile payments. Most everyone has long since abandoned writing checks in favor of sliding a card. Now an increasing number of people are making payments by tapping their smartphones on terminals. Apple Pay is pushing the tech forward, and it will make a big jump in the coming year.

Crowd-sourced logistics. Uber and Lyft represent a game change in logistics for both the supply chain and on-the-ground services. More than just a novelty or a fall-back, crowd-sources transport and delivery represent a strategic edge for the smaller supply chain partner looking for a competitive edge. As acceptance of the trend grows, so will its presence on the road.

Drone management platforms. As market acceptance of crowd-sourced transportation increases, so does its uptake of drones as delivery providers. The technology has progressed rapidly and is slashing delivery costs wherever the technology is used. Drone fleets and platforms face a tougher journey to universal acceptance, but big strides will be taken in 2016.

The Internet of Things. As devices go online by the millions every day, the opportunity to leverage them for B2B data collection increases. The healthcare industry stands to benefit a great deal in the coming year as healthcare providers implement wearable monitoring devices for those under care, increasing the efficiency of service delivery and patient analytics.

The Battle for the Internet. All of this progress is welcomed by thousands of companies, but viewed with suspicion by thousands of others. A few missiles fired across the bow of the Internet have already awakened the business community to its status as a steadily-warming hot potato; while a showdown for control of the Internet is not yet imminent, there will certainly be increasing signs of potential conflict as next year unfolds.

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